Vernon Parish family captures surreal photo of dangerous wildfire near home

Within a few minutes, the Lions Camp Fire grew to a 50-foot fire wall around one Vernon Parish family's property.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 8:09 PM CDT
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VERNON PARISH, La. (KALB) - The Lions Camp Fire in Vernon Parish is one of the largest wildfires Louisiana has ever recorded with nearly 800 acres being burnt.

The wildfire caused major damage and threatened several properties as it spread, even coming dangerously close to some homes. Kevin Johnson, a Vernon Parish resident who lives on Ford Stewart Road, said he and his family are counting their blessings after the wildfire burned just about everything on their property, except for their home.

Johnson once had a perfect view from the back patio of his multi-acre property that spread out into the woods. However, last month, his property looked more like a scene from a war movie.

Emergency crews began racing against the clock back on August 26 to try and contain a growing wildfire that began just behind the Johnson property.

“That is the one thing I remember the most is that sound of the fire coming,” said Johnson. “It was like a distant rumble and that rumble just kept getting louder and stronger. It just blasted out of the trees.”

Johnson said he watched as the first fire created a cloud of black smoke over their property. The smoke lasted for hours before a second cloud began to rapidly grow. This time, it only took a matter of a few minutes before the wind fueled the fire to uncontrollable levels. Johnson said a 50-foot firewall came within 100 yards of his home.

“It literally sounded like a runaway train coming through the woods,” said Johnson. “The ground was shaking. It was like it created its own storm.”

For hours, Johnson feared that he and his family might have been trapped by the flames that had, by that time, jumped the property and were heading towards the City of Leesville. However, instead of leaving, Johnson and his family stayed as they set up sprinklers to keep the ground wet and less likely to burn.

“It was so crazy and fast, and you heard everybody screaming,” said Johnson. “Everybody is hollering that we have to leave and have to go. I just backed my truck out of the garage, grabbed my water hose and started putting out the ember fires.”

As it would turn out, this decision by Johnson helped keep some color on his land. A sudden shift in the wind direction allowed the fire departments to get the flames under control.

Once the flames were put out, an aerial view showed the entire property had been damaged, except for the house and the surrounding yard around it.

Investigators have confirmed that the cause of the Lions Camp Fire was arson. A $2,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to an arrest or conviction. Johnson told KALB that he is willing to even match that reward amount to help incentivize more information coming out to find out who was responsible for damaging his property.

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